Nuts are a praised paleo/primal snack. They can be used in many paleo cereals, not-oat-meal, breads or just simply eat them are they are! Many people eat a lot of them. They are loaded with helpful and essential nutrients, and some studies show that they might help with weight loss. There are some things that are not so great too.
Phytic acids are in nuts so they don’t sprout before the right conditions but in our digestive system they bind to other vitamins and minerals, including iron and magnesium so we can’t absorb them. Some nuts, like almonds and cashews, have them in high amounts. Chestnuts have one of the lowest amounts of phytic acid.
Remember lectins from my other post about grains and why they suck. I mentioned that lectins cause gut irritation that is the bases for autoimminity and other ‘fun’ stuff. Well, they’re back again. Lectins are in large amounts in many nut but the lectins in them do not outweigh the beneficial nutrients nuts contain. But too many nuts will cause problems, especially if you have digestive problems, so keep it to a hand-full a day
Nuts do have a few other anti- nutrients besides lectin. They are not in big amounts, but for the sensitive people it can be an issue.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids(PUFA)
Another issue with many nuts are the amount and ratios of PUFAs. They are the main fat in most nuts and mostly in the form of omega-6 and omega-3. The problamatic part about this is that most nuts have too much omega-6 and close to none omega-3. Our omega-3: omega-6 ratios are suposed to be between 1:1 and 1:2, and now the average is 1: 10, thanks to grains, processed food an legumes. Most nuts will not help either.
These are omega-6 and omega 3 ratios, I copied this whole section from Paleodietlifestyle.com. It’s really helpful info about nuts and ratios:
Almonds are moderately high in PUFA, with a total of 12.1 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6. They are a good source of manganese, copper, magnesium, vitamin E and riboflavin. Wild almonds are highly toxic with a compound that breaks down to cyanide, but modern domesticated almonds don’t contain that compound.
Macadamia nuts are low in total PUFA compared to other nuts, with a total of only 1.5 grams per 100 grams and most of their fat being monounsaturated. The amount of total PUFA is low enough that the omega-6/omega-3 ratio is not a concern. They are a good source of thiamine, copper and manganese. Macadamia nuts are also very low in antinutrients like phytic acid. They are healthy even in higher amounts.
Pistachios are moderately high in PUFA, with a total of 13.2 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are a good source of copper, thiamine, manganese and vitamin B6.
Walnuts are very high in PUFA, with a total of 47.2 grams per 100 grams, with a fair amount omega-3 fat. They are often praised for their high omega-3 content, but are way too high in total PUFA and still have a bad omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. They are a good source of magnesium. manganese and copper.
Pine nuts are very high in PUFA, with a total of 34.1 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are a good source of manganese, copper and magnesium.
Chestnuts are very low in total PUFA, 0.9 grams per 100 grams, low enough that the omega-6/omega-3 ratio doesn’t matter. They are also low in antinutrients like phytic acid. Chestnuts are considered a real nut and are starchy instead of fatty and this is why they are low in PUFA. Unlike other nuts, they can be roasted at higher temperatures without problems. They are a good source of vitamin C, copper, manganese and vitamin B6. They are the only nut with an appreciable amount of vitamin C.
Pecans are high in PUFA, with a total of 21.6 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are a good source of manganese, copper and thiamine.
Hazelnuts, also known as filberts, are moderately low in PUFA, with a total of 7.9 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, copper and manganese.
Brazil nuts are high in PUFA, with a total of 20.6 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are an extremely good source of selenium, with 774% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) per 6 nuts. Selenium is an extremely important nutrient that’s lacking in many people’s diet. It’s a crucial antioxidant and is very important for the well functioning of the thyroid gland. Selenium is so important that it could be wise to eat a few brazil nuts regularly even though they are high in total PUFA. Keep in mind however that selenium becomes toxic in high amounts and that 2 or 3 brazil nuts per day should be more than enough. They are also a good source of magnesium and copper.
Cashews are moderately low in PUFA, with a total of 7.8 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.
Pumpkin seeds are high in PUFA, with a total of 20.9 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are a very good source of magnesium, a mineral that lacking in most people’s diet. They are also a good source of copper, manganese, iron and phosphorus.
Sunflower seeds are high in PUFA, with a total of 23.1 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, magnesium, copper, manganese and selenium.
Sesame seeds are high in PUFA, with a total of 21.8 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-6 fat. They are a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium. copper and manganese.
Flax seeds are high in PUFA, with a total of 28.7 grams per 100 grams, most of it in omega-3 fat, contrary to other nuts. Even though they are high in omega-3 fat, the omega-3 is in the ALA form (alpha-Linolenic acid), which is a short-chain form that need to be elongated to EPA and DHA to be useful for the body. The body’s mechanisms to elongate ALA to EPA and DHA are very inefficient and ALA forms of omega-3 fats are not good sources of omega-3 for us. Unless you enjoy them, don’t go out of your way to eat them as they are not a great choice to get more omega-3 compared to fatty fish and grass-fed ruminant meat.They are a good source of thiamin and manganese.
That’s some good info. By the way peanuts are NOT nuts, they are legumes. Don’t eat them. They have some harmful stuff that can also be found in grains.
The amount of phytic acid, lectins and many other antinutrients can be lowered by soaking the nuts in water for 4-12 hours, and then drying them. This process ‘washes away’ the anti-nutrients.
In conclusion, nuts are healthy in very small amounts. They have plenty of important nutrients. Avoid too much because of phytic acid, lectins and other anti-nutrients, and bad PUFA ratios. Soaking the nuts can lower some of these, but not all. The healthiest nuts are cestnuts, for its low phytic acid content and Macadamia nuts because it has more monounsaturated fats and they both have a more-than-average omega-3 amount. Flax is tasty, but if you want lots of omega-3 meat and fish are the answers. Keep the nuts down to a handful a day(or less) and you will be fine.